news Home appliance rental franchise chain Mr Rental has deployed Microsoft’s software as a service-based Office 365 productivity platform to more than 90 stores across Australia and New Zealand, Microsoft announced this morning.
Founded in 1983, Mr Rental is a franchise chain which offers customers the chance to rent a wide range of items, ranging from televisions and other home entertainment apparatus to whitegoods such as refrigerators, furniture and so on, catering to both the home and business markets.
The company’s chief information officer Brad Rappell said in a statement distributed by Microsoft this morning that the opportunity to consume Office 365 through partner Telstra’s T-Suite platform on a pay per user basis and scale from month-to-month was “very attractive” to the company “and allows us to live our mantra of – ‘Keeping life simple’“.”
Microsoft said that with Office 365, Mr Rental could increase its number of franchisees without a large increase in up-front IT costs, which has “eliminated many of the barriers associated with growing a franchise”. The company has franchise outlets located in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, West Australia, ACT and both the North and South Island in New Zealand.
“If we need to run remote kiosks within shopping centres or as part of other local area marketing initiatives, all we need to get up and running is a Telstra 4G dongle and a laptop and that is equivalent to being in an office,” Rappell said, adding that the depth of Microsoft’s partner channel was also a critical factor in the decision to shift to Office 365, as the company has future growth plans outside of Australia and New Zealand.
According to the statement, Office 365 has also improved Mr Rental’s coaching process in addition to its franchise development process, by increasing the contact it has with its franchisees.
“We are now able to conduct weekly coaching and support calls via Lync and SharePoint supported with a quarterly onsite visit. This means that the amount of support that we can provide to our franchisees has improved dramatically, in turn increasing the value of the franchise,” said Rappell.
Microsoft said Mr Rental was also now able to conduct its own research via surveys through SharePoint; allowing the organisation to receive instant feedback on new processes and ideas allowing it to roll out new programs much quicker. As a result, it has eliminated the need to outsource its internal research and can instead reinvest the money into the franchisees. In addition, Mr Rental is using Office 365 as the central communication channel allowing for better collaboration across the departments including promotions, product and operations.
The news comes as Office 365 has gradually been growing its presence in Australia.
Twelve months ago, Fortescue Metals chief information officer Vito Forte revealed that the company was then working on a plan to migrate to Office 365, for example, and Microsoft has also won substantial contracts with a number of major universities to deploy the software to students and sometimes staff. In addition, non-profit Australian organisations such as charities are adopting Microsoft’s Office 365 Software as a Service platform in large numbers, according to non-profit technology enablement group Infoxchange, which has recently helped 20 such organisations shift into Microsoft’s cloud.
However, like fellow SaaS player Google with its Google Apps offering, Microsoft has struggled to convince large corporations and government departments and agencies of the case to switch from a desktop software deployment model to Office 365, which is hosted outside of Australia.
Microsoft is really strongly pushing its SaaS apps in Australia at the moment. The company has been pumping out a constant stream of new customer media releases in areas such as CRM and Office 365. It is unclear at the moment how strongly its rivals (for example, Salesforce.com and Google) are performing locally with their similar offerings; is Microsoft leading a genuine SaaS revolution in Australia right now, or are the other vendors also signing up a fair amount of new local customers, but not disclosing them? It’s not quite clear.
Either way, if you know of any SaaS deployments in major Australian organisations I’d love to hear about them; Delimiter’s anonymous tips form is here. Even we won’t know who you are ;) If you tip us off about a deployment, we’ll follow it up directly with the organisation concerned and get independent verification.